SmarterSafer Submits Letter on the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA)

SmarterSafer Submits Letter on the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA)

Washington, DC – April 25, 2024 – The SmarterSafer Coalition submitted the following comment letter regarding the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA): 

Dear Speaker Johnson and Leader Jeffries,

SmarterSafer is a national coalition that includes a diverse chorus of voices who champion a united front for environmentally responsible and fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe mitigation and the promotion of public safety. The coalition focuses on several policy areas, including flood and wildfire risk, extreme heat, infrastructure investment, environmental protection and conservation, and overall responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars. We write you today to urge the swift reauthorization and update of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) that would expand the CBRA System maps to include areas that have undergone careful review and community feedback.

Enacted in 1982 by President Reagan, CBRA encourages conservation of vulnerable coastal ecosystems and protects the taxpayer from subsidizing high-risk coastal development by restricting the availability of federal funding and financial assistance within the identified John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS). The current CBRA System includes approximately 3.5 million acres of coastal ecosystems across the U.S., including barrier islands, beaches, and wetlands that provide numerous protective benefits to shield communities against storms and hurricanes. For over forty years, CBRA has protected vulnerable habitats, saved lives, and saved taxpayer dollars. In fact, a 2019 study found that CBRA decreased federal coastal disaster expenditures by $9.5 billion between 1989 and 2013 and predicts up to an additional $108 billion in savings by 2068. [1]

SmarterSafer supports The Strengthening Coastal Communities Act (S.2958), introduced by Senator Carper and Senator Graham, and the Bolstering Ecosystems Against Coastal Harm (BEACH) Act (H.R. 5490), introduced by Representative Kiggans. These bills would add to the CBRA System an additional 278,000 acres of northeastern coastal areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia, and an additional 14,500 acres to protect systems in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. All of these proposed updates are the result of extensive review and community feedback that would help enhance flood protection for our coastal communities.

SmarterSafer also strongly supports the inclusion of language that would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the expansion of the CBRA System landward as sea levels rise, in cooperation with Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and state governors. By studying the expansion of the program to accommodate the natural migration of protective marshes and wetlands, we can help to ensure the longer-term efficacy of the CBRA program to discourage future development in risky areas.

Overall, SmarterSafer urges continued momentum on passage and conferencing of these bipartisan bills, which would take important steps to reauthorize and revitalize the CRBA System to improve the resiliency of our coastlines, protect critical habitats, and save taxpayer dollars.

Please do not hesitate to contact SmarterSafer Executive Director Chris Brown should the coalition or our members be of any assistance in the future.

The SmarterSafer Coalition

CC: Members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources

[1] Andrew S. Coburn and John C. Whitehead “An Analysis of Federal Expenditures Related to the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982,” Journal of Coastal Research 35(6), 1358-1361, (15 March 2019).

About SmarterSafer

SmarterSafer is a national coalition made up of a diverse chorus of voices united in favor of environmentally responsible, fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy that promote public safety. SmarterSafer members include taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations, and mitigation advocates. 

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